Ten Indicted for Stealing $500K in Federal Funds from Tuskegee University

A grand jury indicts 10 individuals, including 4 Tuskegee University employees, for conspiracy to steal $500,000 in federal program funding. The defendants face charges of conspiracy to commit federal program theft and theft concerning programs receiving federal funds.

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Nitish Verma
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Ten Indicted for Stealing $500K in Federal Funds from Tuskegee University

Ten Indicted for Stealing $500K in Federal Funds from Tuskegee University

A grand jury has indicted ten individuals for conspiracy to commit federal program theft, stealing approximately $500,000 in federal program funding from Tuskegee University in Alabama between an unknown start date and 2020. The indicted individuals include four Tuskegee University employees and six others who allegedly participated in the scheme.

Why this matters: The alleged theft of federal funds highlights the vulnerability of institutions entrusted with managing public money, and the need for robust oversight mechanisms to prevent such abuses. The case also underscores the importance of accountability in ensuring that federal programs serve their intended purposes, rather than enriching individuals.

The four Tuskegee employees - Cassandra Harris Parker, Lora Regina Baker, Jeanette Moss-Smith, and Wanda Tyner Hairston - allegedly created a scheme to steal the federal funds by issuing checks to their co-conspirators. Parker created purchase orders, Baker entered check requests, Moss-Smith signed the forms, and Hairston assigned grant codes. The checks were then delivered to the co-conspirators, who cashed them.

The other individuals indicted in the conspiracy are Keyonn Dalarrion Cannon, 26; Lanequia Shanice Cooper, 29; Ledaryl Tremayne Johnson, 27; Morris Gene Welch; Phyllis Vanessa Tyner, 57; and Abraham Torbert Wright, Jr., 23. All ten defendants face charges of conspiracy to commit federal program theft, which carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison. The four Tuskegee employees also face charges of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

United States Attorney Jonathan S. Ross emphasized the seriousness of the alleged crimes, stating, "The United States Attorney's Office considers the theft of federal dollars to be a serious crime. My office will continue to prosecute those who exploit federal programs and who exploit the institutions, like Tuskegee University, entrusted with using federal program funds for their intended purposes." United States Attorney

Special Agent in Charge Tamala Miles with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) also condemned the alleged misuse of federal grant money. "This constitutes a flagrant misuse of federal grant funds for personal use," said Miles. "We remain committed to collaborating with our law enforcement partners to uphold the integrity of HHS programs."

The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture - Office of Inspector General, HHS-OIG, and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. Assistant United States Attorney Christopher P. Moore is prosecuting the case. Trials for the defendants are scheduled to begin on August 12, 2024.

Tuskegee University, founded in 1881, is a private, historically black university located in Tuskegee, Alabama. The institution has played a significant role in African American higher education and is renowned for its academic programs and historical contributions. The alleged theft of federal program funds marks a troubling chapter for the esteemed university as it cooperates with authorities in the ongoing case.

Key Takeaways

  • 10 individuals, including 4 Tuskegee University employees, indicted for stealing $500,000 in federal program funds.
  • The scheme involved creating fake purchase orders and checks, which were cashed by co-conspirators.
  • Each defendant faces up to 5 years in prison for conspiracy to commit federal program theft.
  • The 4 university employees also face up to 10 years in prison for theft concerning programs receiving federal funds.
  • Trials are scheduled to begin on August 12, 2024.